Football Puts Famous Quarterback Family on Right Lane
By Jace LeJeune
There are a lot of great football families especially in a great state of football like Louisiana, and they are many successful quarterback families in the state including the Manning family from New Orleans that consists of Archie (former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints QB), Peyton (former Tennesee, Indianapolis Colt, and Denver Bronco QB), and Eli (former Ole Miss and current New York Giant QB). However, there are other quarterback families that have had not only the success like the Mannings, but have accomplished many things that the Manning family hasn’t.
In Monroe, Louisiana, the father son duo of Bob and Robert Lane are the best known members of the Lane family, but football has gone all the way back to four generations with Bob Lane’s grandfather Henry Walden playing tight end for LSU from 1915-1918. For Bob Lane, football was a major part of his life due to his father Ralph Lane.
“I was very fortunate to come from the lineage of my father,” Bob Lane said. “He played football at Louisiana College, and is even in the Hall of Fame now. He coached in Louisiana for twenty years at schools like LaGrange High School and Denham Springs. Then, he coached at Northeast Louisiana University, which is now called ULM.”
Because of Ralph Lane’s successful football career, his son was able to take an interest in playing football, and he did so playing for the great Neville football programs in the 1970’s led by legendary Head Coach Charlie Brown.
“I played quarterback at Neville, but back in the 1970’s, players had to play both ways,” Bob Lane said. “I made All-State in my junior and senior year as a defensive back. In those two years, I intercepted 18 passes. Quarterbacking at Neville was a great honor, but it was more handing the ball off more than we threw it. I was more of a talented football player all around when I was at Neville.”
Bob Lane continued by saying how special it was to play for a program like Neville in the 1970’s because a lot of kids wanted to play football for Neville growing up during that time period. During those years, Bob Lane had some All-State recognitions, and the teams had pretty good success as well when he was the quarterback. In his junior year, he led the team to a 12-1 record where their only loss came in the semifinals to a very good Covington team. In his senior year, he suffered a knee injury against Carroll High School in a district game which ended his senior season. Overall, the former Neville two-way star enjoyed every moment playing football for Neville.
“You can’t describe playing for a football program like Neville,” Bob Lane said. “We grew up in the Northside of Monroe as kids just chomping at the bit to just be on the team much less play and in my case, be the starting quarterback. It’s always been a very successful school. It continues to be and just a great honor to play at Neville.”
Bob Lane was not the only star football player in the family as his older brother also played for Neville and later would play for LSU.
“My brother Clif preceded me both at Neville and LSU,” Bob Lane said. “He played tight end and defensive end at Neville. They won the 1972 state championship for Neville. He was about three years ahead of me, but we got to play a couple of seasons together.”
After Bob Lane played his football career at Neville, he was heavily recruited by some of the biggest football programs such as Stanford, Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Texas, etc. In the end, he decided to go in state to play for LSU with his brother Clif Lane. Even though, it was huge for LSU to get Bob Lane to sign for the team, recruiting was not as big in the 1970’s as it is now.
“I can remember going to a banquet in New Orleans after I had signed with LSU,” Bob Lane said. “For the first time, I realized that I was the number one prospect in the state of Louisiana and that signed with LSU. Back then, people didn’t know where they were ranked. I was recruited by 30 schools, but back then, recruiting was more regional and a lot less national or global.”
When Bob Lane arrived at LSU in 1977, the Tigers already had a returning starter in Pat Lyons as well as some other quarterbacks, who would later on become starters for LSU. Those guys would be Steve Ensminger, who would go on to play quarterback in the NFL and the CFL, and David Woodley, who would go on to play in the Super Bowl for the Miami Dolphins.
“In the first year at LSU, Lyons got hurt and there were two other quarterbacks that already had a year under their belt,” Bob Lane said. “In my freshman year, I reinjured my knee that I injured at Neville in my senior year. I also broke my foot when I was on the freshman team at LSU playing against Florida State. I went into the old Our Lady of the Lake Hospital to get my ACL repaired. There, I got a staph infection, and that staph infection dropped me from 195 lbs. to 165 lbs. It took the whole spring and summer for me to overcome not just the knee injury but the staph infection as well.”
After Bob Lane’s injury plagued freshman year at LSU, he redshirted his sophomore year to get healthy. In his junior season, he was listed as the number three quarterback behind Ensminger and Woodley, who both had two years of experience ahead of Lane. Even though Bob Lane did not get a lot of playing time at quarterback, he did get some playing time playing some defensive back and even intercepted a pass in the 1979 Tangerine Bowl against Wake Forest, which would be legendary LSU Head Coach Charlie McClendon’s last game as the head coach for the Tigers.
The next season, Ensminger and Woodley graduated at quarterback giving Bob Lane a chance to win the starting quarterback job. It was that year when Bo Rein (former NC State Head Coach) was going to be the head coach at LSU until he tragically died in the plane crash on January 10th, 1980. Jerry Stovall (former LSU star running back and Head Coach) took over the LSU program as well as Rein’s staff. It was at that point when Bob Lane decided to transfer.
“Well, they made the decision to run the veer offense, and I wasn’t the guy to run that offense,” Bob Lane said. “It was in my best interest to leave as it was a business decision and transfer to ULM.”
Lane would play his fourth year of eligibility at Northeast Louisiana University and then would get drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 9th round of the 1982 NFL Draft. He would play a little while for the Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons, but he eventually got cut by both teams. It was in an upstart football league called the USFL that Bob Lane spent his most successful years of his pro career for the Birmingham Stallions. In fact, he was the starting quarterback for the Stallions during the 1983 season and played well. The next season, he would be the backup once again to former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Cliff Stoudt, but he experienced the starting quarterback once again in the 1984 season opener.
“It was the opening game of the season against the New Jersey Generals, and Cliff Stoudt didn’t have a good half and didn’t look good for the opening series of the second half so the fans started chanting that they wanted me to be on the field,” Bob Lane said. “It was surreal for me because there were probably 60,000 fans there and it let me know that I kind of earned my spot up there. I didn’t play that much better, but it was great to get 15 more minutes of fame.”
Lane was enjoying a pretty good career in the USFL, but the USFL filed an antitrust law against the NFL, which would ultimately cause the end for the upcoming league that Lane was having his most success in.
“I would go home and watch ESPN every night hoping that the reports were good, and I was fired up when the USFL won the case, but it wasn’t until the next day that we heard that the jury messed up and awarded the USFL one dollar which tripled under three. It wasn’t until a day or two later that the owner announced that they would cancel the season and eventually fold up the league.”
It was very depressing news for the former Birmingham quarterback and fan favorite, but he found out some news soon when he was offered a job to coach quarterbacks where he spent his final year of eligibility at Northeast Louisiana University. There, he would follow his father’s footsteps as a coach, and he did coach some pretty good quarterbacks including Doug Pederson, who is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Stan Humphries, who would later be the starting quarterback for the San Diego Chargers when they lost in Super Bowl XXIX. The team went on to win the 1987 I-AA National Championship. However, Bob Lane would quit coaching after two seasons when Head Coach Pat Collins decided to step down.
“I had some offers to go to different schools to coach, but my wife had a hair style shop here in Monroe, and we had to leave that,” Bob Lane said. “I also didn’t want my son Robert to move around from city to city so I decided to quit my coaching career and to live in Monroe. That’s how I got into the insurance business which I am involved with today.”
Bob Lane’s son Robert would go down to be another great high school football player from Monroe, but in the 2000’s, there was a lot of hype for Bob Lane’s talented and athletic son Robert Lane.
Bob Lane’s only son Robert Lane was born on July 10th, 1984 during his father’s time with the USFL. Football did play a big role in the family when Robert was growing up because he was surrounded with a family that has been involved with the game of football, but it wasn’t until 8th grade year that Robert Lane knew the potential that he had as a football player.
“Football started to get serious for me when I was in 8th grade,” Robert Lane said. “My dad was able to coach me like a college coach would since he was once a college coach. We were breaking down film and that continued in high school which certainly gave me an advantage.”
Both Bob and Robert Lane had great careers at Neville High School. Both had some similarities in their game as well as their success on the football field. When Bob and Robert started their careers at Neville High School, they were both defensive backs and then made the transition to quarterback. Both would become highly recruited players and would win some games at Neville, but besides that, their games and their journeys to the next level were very different.
“I do see some similarities when my son was playing to when I was playing, but I have to admit that he was better than me,” Bob Lane said. “He had more overall talent and was more physical, but we had the same ability of reading defenses.”
“Back then, they had the old film where it was black and white,” Robert Lane said. “You could also barely see who is who, but we were alike. My dad was a really good athlete as a quarterback and as a free safety. I was a little bigger and had more physicality running the football compared to my dad. Also, when my dad was playing at Neville, they didn’t throw the football so I was fortunate enough to be a product of the new spread offense.”
Unlike his father, Robert Lane played for four different high school coaches, but he thrived every year with each one including current Neville Coach Mickey McCarty. Throughout his career, Robert Lane thrived in the spread offense and put up some crazy numbers such as throwing for over 6,000 yards and 64 touchdowns as well as rushing for over 2,000 yards and 42 touchdowns. His talents and numbers that he put up attracted many colleges including LSU and Ole Miss. He also racked up many awards such as being a high school All-American and Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year as well as many other awards. However, there was one main goal that Robert Lane wanted to accomplish.
“I wasn’t striving for the individual accomplishments,” Robert Lane said. “Those just kind of came with playing hard and contributing to the game. Our main goal was to win the state championship especially for our senior year. Of course, we would run into a great John Curtis football team that year to beat us in the semifinals. I did accomplish many things at Neville, but the reason I was able to was because of the great teams that we had. It was the reason why I would go on to be Parade All-American and Mr. Football in 2002. Those were great individual awards, but it wasn’t just me out there.”
Unlike when his father was playing, Robert Lane had to decide between two sports for which sport he was going to play at the next level. He also had to do so by being highly recruited in both sports at only the age of 18.
“There was not a night that went by when my phone was not ringing,” Robert Lane said. “It was great and wonderful, but it is still overwhelming to an 18 year old senior in high school. It wasn’t just the college football and baseball teams, but it was the internet sites that were starting to get involved with recruiting as well. Social media has evolved today and recruiting has as well so I can’t imagine being a recruit nowadays.”
According to Robert Lane, playing football at Neville his senior year was the most enjoyable years that he has ever played football in his whole life especially during his senior season.
“There were a lot of great moments at Neville for me,” Robert Lane said. “One of the best moments was when we beat St. Thomas More in my senior year in order to go to the semifinals. In fact, the whole senior season was fun for me and was the most fun that I had playing football.
Even though Robert Lane enjoyed his senior year, it wasn’t until after the football season that Robert Lane had to make a decision of what he was going to do. He had a couple of calls from major league baseball teams that he was going to be drafted in the third to fifth round of the major league baseball draft.
“At the time, I was going to try and play both sports,” Robert Lane said. “I knew that my education was pretty valuable and once I got the money for the contract, I knew that a lot of it was going to go away because of taxes and that the contract was going to be a five year deal with $100,000 per year. In the long run after paying taxes and agents, it really wasn’t a lot of money.”
The recruiting process, for Robert Lane, was covered closely by many fans especially the ones that were either LSU or Ole Miss fans. Those were the top two schools that it came down to. For LSU, it made sense because Robert’s father, grandfather, and uncle all played for LSU at one point and he grew up in the state, but at the same time, LSU was already recruiting two other quarterbacks in JeMarcus Russell (former Oakland Raiders QB) and Matt Flynn (BCS National Championship winning quarterback and current NFL QB). For Ole Miss, it was a chance for Robert Lane to learn under then head coach David Cutcliffe, who mentored the Manning brothers at Tennessee and Ole Miss. For Robert Lane, it came down to pick one school that he was going to attend for the next four years.
“At the time, I was committed to LSU along with Matt Flynn,” Robert Lane said. “Because of my baseball capability, Nick Saban (former LSU and current Alabama Head Coach) and the LSU coaching staff was worried about me being drafted and going to play professional baseball, which was totally understandable. They were going to try and recruit three quarterbacks in that class. I also went on a visit to Ole Miss and fell in love with the place, the town, and the coaches. It just felt right for me and of course, Coach Cutcliffe was a huge impact.”
For those reasons, Robert Lane eventually signed with Ole Miss to play at a great SEC school and get the chance to play for a quarterback mastermind like David Cutcliffe.
“With his background that he had with the quarterbacks was proven,” Robert Lane said. “He is also a great man and that had a big influence as well.”
In 2003, Robert Lane redshirted and for good reason as Eli Manning was the starting quarterback and would go on to break every Ole Miss record that was then held by his father Archie. For Robert, it was a time to sit back and learn the offense. The next season, Robert Lane had his best games as an Ole Miss Rebel in the final games of the season in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State and in the previous game where it would be in his home state against the team that was also heavily recruiting him since his 8th grade year.
“To go down into Death Valley and play quarterback there was great,” Robert Lane said. “We almost had them beat, but that was also the game that Alley Broussard (former LSU running back) had over 250 yards and broke a 42 yard run on 3rd and 41 on a scoring drive. It did mean a lot to go in and play well. It was a great experience of playing at Tiger Stadium.”
Everything was going perfectly into plan for Robert Lane and the Ole Miss Rebels. With Robert Lane playing some really good football in the final two games of the 2004 season, the future was optimistic for Ole Miss football. Coach Cutcliffe was figuring out how to use a great talent like Robert Lane in his system. Things seemed to be working out until the football program did the unthinkable which was firing Coach Cutcliffe at the end of the season.
“It was not a good deal,” Robert Lane said. “The way that he went out was a political firing. Some of the big money guys wanted him gone. It kind of caught the team blindsided. We made the Cotton Bowl the year before. That season, we went 4-7, but I was the player of the game in our win against Mississippi State, and we were on our way to revamping. The offense was going to fit with what I did. It was definitely out of the blue that he got fired, and it was a mistake for Ole Miss to fire him.”
The university was expecting some big names to apply for the job especially since it was an SEC head coaching job, but eventually, the team hired a very familiar name for Louisiana football fans and that was Ed Orgeron (former Ole Miss Head Coach currently the Head Coach for LSU).
“It was a night and day difference between Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Orgeron,” Robert Lane said. “Their demeanors were really different. Ed was a defensive line coach trying to coach an SEC program. He tried to coach a team like he did as a defensive line coach, and it was proven that it couldn’t work like that.”
When Ed Orgeron took over as Ole Miss Head Coach, the program had trouble winning games from 2005-2007. The Rebels had a combined record of 10-25. When Orgeron first took over, two a day practices were very hard during the offseason.
“Two a day practices were three hours long,” Robert Lane said. “I can remember starting practices at 2:30 and finishing at 6:15 at night. I even lost 22 pounds in one practice. We had coaches going to the hospital with cramps and many players had to be taken in these buses that the band used to be transported to the hospital. At Ole Miss, it was definitely a big time learning curve for him. Hopefully, I think he learned a little bit from his experience at Ole Miss and wish him nothing but the best for him at LSU.””
For Robert Lane, the coaches had to go back to the drawing board with what they were going to do with Robert Lane as a quarterback. It was back to square one when the talented recruit from Monroe arrived at Ole Miss.
“Honestly, I thought that I was the best quarterback on the team,” Robert Lane said. “The offense didn’t fit with what I could do. We were getting to that point with Cutcliffe, and they were with Eli for four years. Eli was a totally different player than I was. As a coach, you want every player to fit your system, and sometimes, it doesn’t always happen. They didn’t really recruit me as hard because I was committed to LSU so they didn’t know what they got when I arrived. All they knew was that they got a Parade All-American quarterback that they never had before. It took them a year and a half to figure that out. When Orgeron came, he was trying to force the USC offense on us, and we didn’t have a Matt Leinart (former USC Heisman Trophy Winner and National Championship winner) or a Carson Palmer (former USC Heisman Winner and current Arizona Cardinals QB). That’s not who we were as quarterbacks, and that is why nobody was successful at quarterback.”
The mixture of Ole Miss figuring out Robert’s talents, the coaching changes, and Robert not fitting the offense were all reasons why Robert Lane never got going as the quarterback at Ole Miss, but what the Rebels did was showcase Robert’s versatility as a football player.
“I played tight end and H-back as well as playing quarterback at Ole Miss,” Robert Lane said. “I was able to go from playing quarterback in the SEC to starting at H-back and tight end all in one year.”
Even though Robert Lane had an up and down career at Ole Miss, he had no regrets regarding attending the university outside of playing athletics.
“First of all, Ole Miss, as an university, is a wonderful place,” Robert Lane said. “A lot of people grow up in Louisiana, and all they talk about is LSU. Even people that attended other universities wear LSU clothes. When I went to Ole Miss, I was in love with the university, the campus, and the people. As far as my football career, I don’t regret one bit of it.”
As far as playing professionally, it was a short stint for the former Neville high school football star.
“I attended rookie mini-camp with the Chicago Bears and was with the team for four days,” Robert Lane said. “I had a great experience there and got team issued sweats so I can say that I was a Chicago Bear for four days.”
Now, Robert Lane helps his father in the insurance world now, but for both Robert and Bob Lane, football has helped them be the great people who they are today. Not a lot of football parent and son duos can say that they played at a high level for a powerhouse high school program, get recruited by some of the major programs in college, football, played college football, not only played in the USFL, but started, and even played three different positions in the SEC all in the same year. Both Robert and Bob Lane have no regrets about their football careers and if they had to do it all over again, they would.
“I wouldn’t change a thing when it comes to my football career,” Bob Lane said. “I feel as though that I am the luckiest person to play on the face of this Earth. To me, it is taking full advantage of opportunities presented to you, and it’s up to you to develop them and nurture them. I feel that I did everything that was physically and mentally possible. I appreciate the opportunities, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“I think the Lord has a plan for us, and we get in the way of it,” Robert Lane said. “Looking back on it, I personally wanted to play for four years, be a first round draft pick, and play in the NFL, but it wasn’t the Lord’s plan. I enjoyed my time at Ole Miss and don’t regret any part of it. My experiences and struggles that I went through has helped me in the long run.”
As far as football quarterback families go, Bob and Robert Lane should be mentioned as one of the best to go through the entire state. A lot of what they accomplished are things that the Mannings can say that they personally didn’t accomplish. It may not have been exactly as both Bob and Robert have planned, but that is life. Life is like football because there are so many good plays and bad plays as well as ups and downs. Football has helped the Lanes be who they are today and has helped them be in the RIGHT LANE for life.